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Saturday, March 31

Events

Last night was a lot of fun. I freshened up at the hotel and went out for the drinks I've been needing all week. Some fun and some friends was definitely what the doctor would have ordered. After drinks we were looking for a taxi when someone noticed a car rolling past with no driver in it. So, I ran after it and caught it and pushed it back up the hill. Don't worry. I'm not saying I'm a hero. The car was a corsa and it was moving on a slight incline at less than walking pace. Having stopped it, I had a new problem. What do you do with a car that will roll away if you take your leg away? We were calling the police when its owner appeared. He failed to grasp that we'd just saved his car from crashing and that he'd better learn to use the handbrake. Always one to attempt to optimise the moment, I asked him where he was going. A free lift, even from a driver who doesn't know how to stop his car rolling away, would have been better than paying for a taxi. It would had some karma thing in there too. He failed to get it. I think we were best leaving him to it. I waited until he was behind the controls before letting go. That was a silly moment in my life. But fun. I think I would have aborted my car catching had it looked like I was actually getting myself run over. As it happened, I was more than a match for a wee car on a slight incline. Power rangers!

This morning I slept in. Yes! I needed the sleep. I still feel a bit groggy, but last week is behind me. Various, well two, workmen have been in touch and my house is definitely moving forwards apace at the moment. I'm pleased and slightly scared. The more work they do, the more I spend. The slower it is done, though, the more it will cost, so I think it has to be done now and fast. I have no time for rest next week. Come the end of Easter monday I will either feel a winner or a stressed out loser. We'll see. At least I'll be able to shower when I get home: mint!

When I finished on the phone with my roofer I headed into Edinburgh via Boots where I bought hand cream and nail clippers. I'm now in a Starbucks on the outside of a coffee and covered in cream. Hand cream. I'm pleased to be back in Edinburgh. I have a long history with this city. This Starbucks is where I have sat before many gigs and during many Edinburgh Festivals. In fact a few feet away is where I remember planning the musical accompaniment to our hilarious dance routine in The Musical!. I've just checked and they still haven't put up a blue plaque. Just kidding. Of course they have.

I find myself referring to The Musical! a lot more than normal at the moment. I'm not sure if it is a response to planning for Fringe 2007 or whether It's a form of regression. Am I rolling my personality back to before my last relationship began? I don't know.

I do know that I'm a 33 year old overweight man with dry hands sitting texting a blog entry in Starbucks while Edinburgh is out there waiting to be walked in. Must go.

Friday, March 30

On the train

I thought I would have a stab at writing something about my half day off work. I took the half day off to better enable me to head to Edinburgh. I got to King's Cross around 2pm after a 12.30 taxi ride from the office. The hour available before my train allowed me to ring up a friend to talk about Glastonbury tickets (incidentally, the phone wanted to write glastonatsy, which I assume is the facist antidote to the glastonhippy). I also went to the post office and bought my road tax.

Then there was a train to Newcastle on which I watched a Jimmy Carr dvd. Then a wander to the cash point in Newcastle and a trip to starbucks. Now I'm back on a train. It's 7 and I'll be in Edinburgh in 80 minutes or so.

Using this phone to write a blog entry is not as much fun as I'd have hoped, so I'll stop. I have higher hopes for Edinburgh itself. I may even shower when I get to my hotel. I certainly need to poo.

Conscience

Another bit of creative writing from me. I thought I'd let the story and situation reveal itself.

“You go around the back, wait for me to get in and then do it.”
“Why do I have to go round, Dad?”
“Because you get spooked when they talk to you. Remember last time?”
“I don’t want to do this. It’s too hard.”
“We don’t have a choice. Now get round the back. Now. Go. Look, son, there’s no other way.”
“How will I know you’re in?”
“You’ll know. Scram.”

The older man waits a minute and then, straightening his jacket, approaches the front door of the ex-council house. He notices the front garden hasn’t been looked after properly - it’s often the case. As people get older, so they find it hard to make the effort of doing normal things, like getting dressed, brushing what remains of their teeth, and even making a cup of tea. Tending a garden is off the scale. Being old scares him, especially since he knows how easy it is to be taken advantage of at that time of life.

He rings the bell. He waits. No sound from within. Then he knocks on the door. Still nothing. About to give this one up as a bad job, he hears a sound from within, a faint call of pain and confusion. Peering through the letterbox he sees a floor covered in unopened mail and a pair of feet poking out of one of the doorways.

“Come on son, we’re leaving.”
“Why’s that dad?”
“She’s not going to let us in, and if I break in, there’s going to be a lot more than just explaining to do.”

About an hour later, a feeling like he’s lost something hits him and he calls the police anonymously.

Labels:


It's Easter

I was listening to the radio this morning on the way to work. There's no surprise there, then. I heard the "thought for the day" person talking about Easter. To my mind he was quoting not from the Bible, but from the gospel according to Jesus Christ Superstar. I suspect that Tim Rice may have used some sort of quotations-from-the-Bible in his libretto. In fact, I think it's safe to say that he did. I really doubt that the Reverend Roger Royle has been bluffing all these years and, in fact, getting his knowledge of religion from the world of musical theatre.

I don't know. It's possible.

It's been a Jesus-ey couple of days, then. I read Richard Herring's "Christ On A Bike" script yesterday. In his script, Jesus-esque quotes can be derived from the theme song back-catalogue of Tony Hatch (that's a very funny joke in context and I am impressed that anyone would bother to write such a thing).

Here's a really sad view on my OCD-like ways. I have 3 versions of Jesus Christ Superstar in my mp3 collection (which both sits attached to my work computer and travels around with me on my mp3 player - two copies of it in total). I also own another version on CD somewhere. I could, theoretically, listen to Act 1 with one cast and then act 2 with another. Except I can't. I had that idea just now. Act 1 just finished playing and I thought - "Shall I go from the Steve Balsamo/Alice Cooper 1996 cast to the original cast Album with Murray Head?" and then I thought "No! I must not switch between cast albums - it would leave the 1996 album partially listened to, and put the other album out of context, starting halfway through".

It's the same show. I don't know why I'm so pernickety.

Or why I have so many recordings.

Well, I do. They're all different and interesting in their own ways.

Easter isn't just about chocolate, then. It's about Andrew Lloyd-Webber.

Getting Passionate About The Solution

I'm the sort of person that gets passionate about stuff - pretty much instantly. As soon as I know what is "right", then I can switch on the full force of my enthusiasm and I'm off. Of course, not every subject is a good source for passion, but when I'm in the zone, it can be almost overbearing when I give myself the free rein to unleash my enthusiasm (there are probably too many metaphors in this sentence).

Last night, in an epsiode of Subway, by which I mean I was in a Subway shop, having yet another placebo-healthy-sandwich, I had an epiphany. It was an obvious one, but it was so obvious that it had clearly eluded all concerned.

The door of the subway shop opens inwards. The only thing you can grab to pull it is a yale-style lock. This lock is not a latch, but in fact a dead bolt. You turn the lever through 180 degrees and the blot slides across. You turn it back and it unlocks. Simple. When unlocked, the lever can be used as a mini handle and the door just pops open. Of course people look at a yale and try to turn it, which would lock the door, so there's a neat 2" square sign above the yale which reads "To open door, just pull" or some such. I should have taken a photo.

Edit: I took photos
 

Anyway, I first found the door a tiny bit confusing, for like 3 seconds, then I learned to pull it. I can use a door. When I arrived at the shop last night, though, the door was pushed to, but the yale bolt was across, stopping the door from closing properly. "Oh, someone didn't know what they were doing with the door", I thought, "Perhaps they should learn, or read the sign". I regret thinking that.

I bought my sandwich, sat down, and a child came into the shop, bought a drink, went to the door to leave and started playing with the yale lock. I watched him, amused, as he locked us all in, unlocked us in, eventually looked at the sign, pulled, eventually got the door open, and then looked back, apologetically, as though it was not his fault, and left, feeling embarrassed.

Then it hit me.

It wasn't his fault. In fact, it's not anyone's fault that they don't know how to use that door. The door is to blame. I'm not being sarcastic. This door is to blame. There's a good reason we KNOW the door is to blame. It's the little laminated sign above the lock, the one means of opening the door (and also the means of rendering it unopenable and locked).

Now, I've harped on about the "Patronising Laminated Sign" before, but this 2" square of laminated paper is not a patronising sign. It's something else. This is the "Absolving Laminated Sign". The sign has been put in as a disclaimer. It really says "The responsibility for being unable to open the door is yours now". Why should a door, one of the simplest forms of machinery, require a sign to explain how to use it? There's no good reason that a door wouldn't be bloody obvious.

There is a reason in this case. The yale lock. The only means of opening the door is a small box with a lever on it. The lever "affords" turning. You turn the lever and the door is locked. In fact, the obvious thing to do with a lever is turn it, in the hope that it will release the door. The lock in this case is not the sort which disengages when you turn the lever in the unlocking direction - it has a roller-style end, which means it can be pulled open, even when slightly engaged in the frame. So turning the lever when the door is unlocked won't unlock it any more. It is totally non-obvious to grab a lever and just pull it.

The door needs a big fixed handle. The big fixed handle is what people instinctively would grab for and, since it only affords one action, pull towards them. All the people stumbling at the door can be fixed by taking off the sign and adding a handle. Whoever, fitted the door probably thought a handle was unnecessary, since the door will open from the inside by pulling anything that's fixed, like the yale lock. This "optimisation" has removed the need for a handle, but added a confusing means of using a door - i.e. pulling something that says "twist me".

So, I told the staff member who was serving. He understood, but I don't think he saw it as the revolution. He mentioned the suggestion box. I didn't see him joining my campaign. So I wrote a suggestion card out. I posted it in the box. Then I said to the other member of staff that I bet he'd seen loads of people struggling with the door. I explained about design, affordances and why the door's design is broken. It's really obvious anyway that you put a handle on a door, but somehow it eluded the person who wrote the sign. Writing a sign is not a solution. I told him that I would pay for the handle if it didn't prove to solve the problem.

Somehow I doubt a handle will appear.

If it does, then I will claim it as a victory.

Thursday, March 29

Well, tickle my ass an' call me Mary Poppins...

Definitely the best site to recommend at the moment. Read it and read it often - Overheard In New York.

Last night I got into a weird spot, I got into a conversation where I adopted the pattern of missing the last word off each sentence as it was obvious.

Me: Ah, you're selling the... (programmes)
Her: Yes, do you want to buy one?
Me: Yes, hang on, I just wait until the... er... (people have got out of my way)
Her: Sorry about that. So do you want to buy one?
Me: How much do you want me to...?
Her: (Baulking) Er... well... you know, it's up to you, really.
Me: (realising how creepy the above line went) Sorry, I'll finish the sentence. How much do you want me to PAY?
Her: (relief) Three pounds.

Oh, the misunderstandings...

I Almost Have A Shower

Apparently the shower is connected to the pipes. But are the pipes connected to the water? There is a question. As of last information, the answer is no. Maybe one day. Maybe today. Maybe soon and for the rest of your life.

I feel tired and slightly emotional. What I need is a long day on a train with my laptop. That is the aim. My laptop, some amusing DVDs and the movement of the train. Hopefully there'll even be a power socket, so things don't peter out after 2 hours.

I really want to write a whole new comedy script, full of ideas, that will excite me to perform. I have had such mixed experiences with this in the past. When I write new stand-up material it has a high failure rate. When I wrote an entire play, it seemed to work quite well.

I think it's about the contrivance of the subject matter.

I don't know.

I'm trying to do too much. This is apparent from my "shopping list" of tasks for Easter Weekend. It feels like a plan that is guaranteed to be doomed to failure... but maybe that's just the pessimisim of exhaustion talking. We'll see. Or change things before it's too late.

Tonight is relief night. I shall spend some of it showering (about 10 minutes). I doubt I'll be showering at home. Perhaps I will. Perhaps there'll be a surprise waiting. I don't know.

I have to do some ironing and pack for my Edinburgh trip. I want an early night.

No DIY tonight, even though I'd really like to do some painting.

In the sense that I'd like to do some painting, but can't muster the enthusiasm or energy to do it.

My bottom hurts.

Muscular, not soreness.

Richard Herring Is...

I read Richard Herring's blog most of the time. Periodically I lose touch with it for a while, but I always come back for more. He's been a favourite comedian of mine for so long, it's nice to keep abreast of his work and life and warblings.

Today he posted about the posters for his Edinburgh show (2007) and showed a couple of posters from his previous shows. I had seen one of them, but the other one I missed. I think it was one which I particularly wanted to see, but somehow managed to miss. In fact, I know why. I was in a relationship and I didn't have the means of convincing my girlfriend (fiancee, in fact) to come with to Edinburgh or let me go alone. Perhaps I didn't even dare think of the latter. Such a fool was I.

Anyway, the scripts are on his site and I read "Christ On A Bike" and imagined it in his voice. Richard Herring has a fairly distinctive comic voice and I could easily imagine him delivering the material. It made me chuckle. If you like Herring, then read it yourself.

Little Shop, Little Shop Of Horrors

Going to see a favourite musical can be an enthralling experience, or it can be soul-destroying. To see something you love butchered would be bad.

Added to the risk of not enjoying the show last night for its interpretation, was the fact that I was ill, tired and feeling slightly stressed, having calculated the risk of becoming quite poor in the next 6 months - it's a good risk to calculate... until the harsh reality of it hits you.

Anyway, from the first entry into the theatre, the show looked like it would deliver. The set was open to the audience and it looked like Skid Row on there, even though it was a new set. This is the secret to a new production - make it fresh, but give it the character of the original.

When the show got going, it was clear that this was going to be a great production. The three chorus girls, who appear throughout the show like the chorus of a Greek tragedy (I read that somewhere and agreed with it), were very very funny in the opening song. The opening song isn't meant to be funny - it's not meant to be serious. It's just witty. It was laugh out loud funny.

When Sheridan Smith took to the stage as Audrey, I had my doubts. Would she be Ellen Greene? Would she be simpering, rather than squeaky, like the Broadway version? Would she be ridiculous? Or would she be believable AND ridiculous? She was absolutely stunning. We both laughed at her and allowed ourselves to love her and feel for her. Although perhaps you'd have to work hard to beat Ellen Greene's definitive Audrey, I think Sheridan Smith was something very very special.

One of the songs I always found quite touching was "Somewhere That's Green" - in this version, it's played funny until the most wistful verse, then it's wistful in spades. A still hits the room, the audience suddenly understand why Audrey is that most tragic of characters. It's beautiful.

Later in the show, when Seymour and Audrey get together, in the song "Suddenly Seymour", the full pomp of the number is played for laughs, which is probably for the best, since it's a feel good song which does get ridiculous in its writing. You have Sheridan Smith belting her heart out on one side of the stage, sassier than a girl from Chicago, and Seymour on the other doing pratfalls. It bloody works.

Mike McShane as the plant - initially I wondered whether a white man could do the plant. He has such a splendid vocal range that my fears were allayed.

Alistair MacGowan as the dentist (and the cast of "The Meek Shall Inherit") was, for the main, doing an impression of Steve Martin doing the role. But he knows how to perform comedy, and was so physical and so well timed in his execution, that he still made the part his own (even if he was, perhaps doing an impersonation of the dentist).

The whole thing was a delight.

The plant was distinctive and even had some funny movements. Perhaps the plant can steal the show, though this one didn't. It held its own in a strong cast in a strong production.

The only slight disappointment came from the musical direction. On the one hand, they appear to have learned from some of the changes that were added to the Broadway production, but only picked and chosen those which were less cheesy. Not every song deserves the sledgehammer ending that Broadway added. However, on the down side, the musical ensemble was a little thin in numbers. As a result, they missed the opportunity for a fatter sound where it may have contributed well to the mood. Having said that, this musical was written for small-scale productions and perhaps too big a band would have overfaced what was, intentionally, a more intimate version of the show.

I left the theatre in awe and delight.

DJ Bobo

DJ Bobo's "Vampires Are Alive" entry for the Eurovision Song Contest has these lyrics:

Vampires are alive.
They just have to survive.
We’ll never come undone,
And we will be forever young.

(Vampires get alive)

I am a vampire; I’m a slave.
I sleep through the daylight, hence: my grave
In the darkness, in the shadows… here I am!
I want you to be forever mine,
To “gather” until the end of time
Like a nightmare, never ending.
Let me change your world!

(Chorus)

Tonight is the night let a thousand years.
Don’t be scared. Don’t drown in tears.
Free your spirit after midnight;
Sell your soul. Let it go
From heaven to hell, and enjoy the ride.
You’re here to surrender with your life.
Precious victims, my desire: live eternally!

(Chorus)


These are slightly more ridiculous than my own entries which include verses like:

I'm listening to you
Though we have never met
Your song has touched me more than I can say
I'm feeling loved again


and

Now I've found my voice I'll never let you go
I have seen the sun and I've begun to grow
And I can't believe that this is happening
I can find the words to sing


Ah - lovely Eurovision - it brings out the shit songwriting.

Wednesday, March 28

My Brain Aches

All of the following things are currently on my mind. Here's a way of getting them off my mind. I'll write about them.

Reply To All - Suppression
At work, sometimes, emails come round to everyone asking us all to do something. Invariably, some tosser hits reply-to-all when they reply back to say that it's not working for them. So we all have to see their emails. In the past I've sent a reply-to-all to their reply-to-all which makes a joke of this. Doing this once is funny. It would have to be really funny to justify doing it again. I still want to make a fool of the people who can't distinguish between reply and reply-to-all...

Then, today, someone replied-to-all asking people not to reply-to-all. I so wanted to reply back... I didn't. It bothered me either way.

Edinburgh - Resigned To Committee
I'm involved with a second group taking a show to Edinburgh this year. Yesterday around 100 emails flew around - everyone replying to all, thrashing out the plan. It's not the plan I thought people were aiming for. There are 5 groups (a total of 11 or 12 individuals) to coordinate and a lot of incomplete and second-hand information. It was simpler when it was all theoretical. Hopefully they'll meet and sort it out on Thursday. My plans for Edinburgh are slightly contingent on theirs.

I'll do what I can to help them once they've decided what they're doing. If they were doing what I advised, I would feel less tense about it. As it is, I think they're going to have to work hard to make it work.

Free Parking
I'm due at the railway station in a few minutes. The other day (Monday) I parked there and someone offered me their all-day parking ticket. I said that I felt I ought to buy my own. Now, with very little in the way of change in my pocket, I almost regret not taking their ticket... maybe I'd have change left for the machine now? Or maybe not. I have a homeless-habit. I give money to people who ask me for it in railway stations. Does that make me an addict?

Little Shop
Heading to London tonight to see what is probably my favourite musical - Little Shop of Horrors. It's a cracker. I have also spent an amount of time today thinking about another favourite - My Fair Lady. It's hard to say why I think one might be better than the other. So maybe I don't.

Tiling Stress
Last night's tiling was good in terms of cutting and nearly completing. The fact that I didn't complete, owing to a lack of adhesive, is a stress. However, I can get the last six tiles down tonight, probably, and then it's all done. The bathroom guy starts again tomorrow. Sadly, I think one of my tiles is particularly off level, which may give him trouble, fitting the toilet on top of the tiles. I hope he has some clever system for dealing with toilets which aren't quite on a level surface.

That's the problem with DIY jobs. I'm too aware of all their flaws. Aaagh.

Knees
Last night's tiling was also stressfull on the knees. I lost skin. They still ache. I may have to find something soft to kneel on tonight - perhaps my brain!

Thursday Pressure Relief Day
I deliberately left Thursday free to allow me to do things which hadn't quite finished in time. So far, the list for Thursday includes
  • Grouting
  • Painting
  • Ironing
I reckon the painting won't happen. That's going to make next week busy.

Going Away For The Weekend
Friday is a half day. Then I go to London and get a train to Newcastle, wait a few minutes in Newcastle and then go to Edinburgh. There's a hotel booked. It should be a good weekend. I think. Assuming I don't spend the entire time worrying about undone DIY jobs and wearing unironed clothes!

Next Week Decorating
I'm supposed to know how to put wallpaper up in time to go and do it next weekend in Newcastle. So I need to finish my gloss painting in the room in which I was going to paper. Then I can put the paper up.

Oh.. but I have 2 gigs... so the 2nd and 3rd are my only days for this. Though the gig on the 4th is only 15 miles from home. I may be able to squeeze some DIY in. Aaagh. Pressures.

House Budget
I did some sums. They weren't good. The good news is that there's a lot getting sorted at the moment - especially the roof. This is, of course, all going to cost money. At the current projections, it will get tight. More stress then.

I need a back massage. Now!

Newcastle Decorating - Easter Weekend
I have a frankly ridiculous plan for the Easter weekend and redecoration in Newcastle. The good bit of the plan involves beer and teamwork. The rest may go desperately wrong!

We'll see.

If Edinburgh relaxes me, then all will work!

Narcissus Strikes Again

I often look at the searches that lead people to my site and see what lead them to choose to click through the Google results to get to me. In the case of the search phrase "Karibe Dangogo", there was only hit - this.

Skip the letter and read my response. As a quick joke, it's funny. If you give it a build up, it WILL disappoint.

Panic Laying

I remember the satisfaction of tiling a small area of porch in my Newcastle house. I didn't remember, until last night, how much stress it can be. Last night I really worked - except for the hour or so when I went out for something to eat.

Here's a pictorial account of the day.

5pm
The bathroom floor looks like this:



I do a general hoover up, then a sweep up and some more hoover up. Then I cut the matting to fit the space. I cut it as three "tiles". I also cut some cardboard templates for the notching required for the pipes. Then I mixed some tile adhesive - it barely covered an 1/8th of the floor area. It sets in 30 minutes. I'm panicking, so I went and mixed a load more. I put down the first mat, then the second. Mixed even more adhesive (this was going to be an issue) and then the third bit of mat went down.

7.17pm
The floor looks like this:



I go out for something to eat, then I come home, do some paperwork and start planning the tiling. I even play with my tile cutters to see how well they'll work for the job. I wasted one tile this way.

9.17pm
The first lot of adhesive has set and it's now safer to spend time on the floor. I lay all the tiles out with spacers, in the planned configuration, and start to cut.

11.40pm
Now I'm tired, and it's time to lay the tiles.

I lay and lay. Working at a pace. I run out of tile adhesive, so the last six tiles (in the doorway) won't get stuck down tonight.

1am-ish
I'm pretty much done. I start to wash my bucket and tools - they'll set hard otherwise. The floor is now like this:



By the time I've gone out for a shower and returned to bed, it's nearly 3am.

Tuesday, March 27

The Tetchy Techie

Last night's sketch show did exactly what I imagined it would do. My gig radar was saying that it would be a quiet one and my technical planning skills were telling me that I'd got my CD right and that I would have fun running the show.

I did have fun running the show from the box. I also got to participate in one of the sketches. The idea of the sketch was that the performers start doing something that's really poor and the sound man, incensed by this, starts heckling. The idea was to make the heckling sound like you could hear into the sound box, but not like it was an announcement over the microphone. So, I brought in and connected up something that was more like a room mic. Soundwise I took out some of the bass that make a vocal mic sound rich, and I made something which should have felt more like an intercom voice.

This was really useful as it was, essentially a handsfree microphone I could also use to enable me to talk down to the stage level while running through all the cues prior to the show.

I reckon we put our enthusiasm into the craftsmanship of the things that we're given to do. So, my contribution was to wire in a special microphone and set it to be a bit tinny.

The show was a bit juddery and I even managed to both screw up a sound effect - accidentally playing it before a sketch started - and then escape blame for the mess up, as the cast hadn't even gotten onto stage when I brought the lights up. So I had to rescue the empty stage by taking the lights down, playing some music, waiting for them to arrive and then re-starting the sketch... it was all just the sort of thing which happens in live theatre. One should expect that sort of thing. I'm surprised we haven't had it sooner.

Anyway, it was tough work for everyone, but I think the audience enjoyed it. Some of the sketches went really smoothly and some of them had me chuckling away in the box, enraptured.

I like being involved in an off-stage capacity.

I'm Losing It

That's twice today that I've found myself the victim of a comic impulse. I ordered lunch today with a fake scottish accent. By that I mean that I adopted a scottish accent to order lunch, rather than asking them to provide me with pseudo-scots-speaking-food. There came a point where the joke seemed to be wearing thin, but I ploughed through it and never really tried too hard to be a stereotypical scot, just a slightly Glaswegian speaking normal person - with a few scots words thrown in. It was fun. The fact that they knew I didn't speak like that added to the difficulty of the accent and the ridiculousness of my resolve to pull it off. I don't know why I did it. I enjoyed it, though.

It would probably be better to adopt fake accents in shops where people don't know me. Then it's more of an acting challenge.

Second stupidity of the day was the email I just sent asking the Black Cat Comedy Club if they would book me. I made a typo in the start line and called them Black Bat. Then I decided to just go for it and replace all the occurrences of the letter "c" with "b". This is an old Monty Python sketch and it was funny for them. I did well with it, pointing out that I appeared to be making that joke. Then I directed them to www.ashleyfrieze.bo.uk and it all got a bit mental. They'll probably not appreciate my "whacky" appeal for a gig, but at least I had fun doing it. Trying to be funny while asking for gigs is a real taboo. Still, I couldn't help it... so at least I had some comic fun from them, even if it wasn't on their stage.

Don't ask me why I'm in such a playfully subversive mood. I don't know. Probably stress.

Thailand

Well well well. Here we are again. I have looked back at my blog for any descriptions of the last time I wielded the absolute power of a tiling trowel, but there's nothing obvious in there. The pressure is on now, though. I have to remember how to tile a floor and it all has to be done before I next do any sleeping. How did it get so urgent?

Well, I couldn't tile the floor before the radiator was in. I couldn't get the radiator put in until the wall was plastered. I didn't imagine that the bathroom would take so long and I kind of assumed that the floor would be boarded, leaving a piece of board out, for access to the radiator pipes, with everything else fitted and just the floor remaining to be tiled. The builder had other ideas.

Quite reasonably, he suggested not boarding over the floorboards, but using a flexible matting - Ditrimat. He also suggested fitting the toilet and skirting board on top of the tiles. This means that the radiator goes on midway through the bathroom works and then the tiles have to go down before the toilet.

I got a note this morning (I'd missed it last night) which basically said this. "I've stopped work until the tiles are down. Please leave me a big cheque and call me when you're tiled."

I knew that I'd be tiling today, but I didn't realise that I'd also be losing a day of the builder for not having tiled last night (which I couldn't do because the radiator only just went on this morning). So, not only was I suspecting that I was the bottleneck AND on the critical path, I've definitely been proved as a roadblock in the process.

You'd think that he could have put the sink in, and maybe the shower, and maybe the door for the shower, but no. Downing of tools - in the sense of stopping work, rather than swallowing a pint of them.

So, the pressure's on. I picked up four boxes of tiles this morning. The returns policy is excellent. They will take back any unused tiles. Individually. Brilliant! So, if I make efficient cuts and don't screw up too much, then this should go quite well.

The plan for tonight is quite scary. I have to do the following in order:
  • Screw down the remaining floorboards
  • Sweep out the floor to remove all detritus
  • Cut the matting to fit the floor
  • Mix some rapid-set tile-adhesive (once mixed I've 30 minutes to...)
  • Lay the matting on the adhesive
  • Wait 2 hours for that to set
  • Lay out the tiles without adhesive
  • Do all the cutting and notching of the tiles
  • Mix some more adhesive
  • Put tiles down as quickly as possible
  • Remember to work from the furthest point inside the room, outwards
  • Sleep
I'll probably not do the grouting until Thursday!

Hopefully tomorrow morning I'll be writing of my immense success and the joys of my wet-wheel tile cutter.

Monday, March 26

Just Say It

As a comedian, one of the tricks is to shorten the distance between your brain and your mouth - allow the thoughts to just come out, in time, rather than pontificate over whether to say something. So, you indulge the voice in your head which says "say this, it would be really funny" and you try to be creative and proactive in your approach to communication.

Sounds good?

Well, it's not. It's just the artificial dropping of a social boundary that usually stops us from getting into trouble as we should consider whether what we're about to do is really altogether wise. However, I'm, apparently, developing immunity to this circumspection and so I find myself acting out my thoughts. Again, on the stand-up stage, it usually gets the right reaction. In real life, it can go wrong. I think I've been lucky recently. The following scenarios could have ended worse, but my instincts and luck got me the reaction I wanted:

On A Train
I was sitting on a train, bound for London. It was last Monday. I was due at a show in Camden. I noticed some school children mucking about. It was annoying. I think that this behaviour needs challenging because children benefit from boundaries. People these days are frightened to be responsible adults around children - frightened because children can be little bastards, and also because they're frightened to look like they have too much interest in children.

I glared at the child who was swinging on the hand rail and kicking the toilet door. I said "Don't break the train". He looked back at me and protested, but actually he stopped being so monkey-like. Result.

On The Street
The following day I was walking round Newcastle's pedestrian district. A twat in a four-wheel drive, using a mobile phone, drove through these bit of paved street. He was allowed to drive through, slowly, but he was clearly an irresponsible wanker, using both his mobile phone and a big gas-guzzler of a car. Given that there's new legislation on mobile phone use, and given that I take this sort of thing seriously, I decided in an instant to have a go. As he went past, I snapped my fingers. He looked at me, I mimed a mobile phone, he started swearing at me and drove off. Result! I'd pissed off a wanker in an expensive car who thinks he's above the law. Har de fucking har.

Leaving A Gig
Last night, having had a middling reception at the gig, so uncertain of whether I could really use my comedian-post-gig-has-carte-blanche-to-say-anything-and-it'll-be-funny rights, I walked past various people, saying goodbye. Around the door, there was a group of people either side of the corridor. I pondered whether, if I jumped, they would instinctively put their arms out as a bridge to catch me. So, I ran at them and declared "Stage dive". I jumped, but landed on my feet and they laughed.

Phew.

That could have been a lot more twattish than it seemed to me at the time that it was.

I don't know what they said when I'd left ear shot.

"Twat" probably.

Still, at least I have the illusion that I've breezed through the last week without causing any real harm.

The Weekend

This weekend was about many things. It was largely coloured by my cold, which was deeply unpleasant, but I managed to achieve a lot, considering.

Friday Night
I raced away from the office and headed to a tile shop, where I spend more than perhaps necessary, on some lovely floor tiles for my new bathroom. I also bought the various accompaniments, like tile underlay matting, adhesive, spacers and grout.

Then to B&Q where I bought a water-lubricated tile cutting machine and some other handy bits and pieces.

Then back to the house where I painted the whole of the bathroom with a 50% water and emulsion paint mix. I had bought some kitchen worktop wood from B&Q which I lay in the shower cubicle, allowing me to put a step ladder in the shower without knackering the shower tray. Neat. I painted every paintable surface, and then, exhausted, sat in bed and watched some of Look Around You before giggling myself to sleep.

Saturday
I awoke at the usual wake up time for work. I went to get breakfast at Subway - never had that before. I resisted the urge to go 12" on my sandwich and put some energy in my system.

Back at home. I then went round the bathroom with bathroom paint, with the radio playing downstairs. Pure brilliant white is aptly named.

Already exhausted from the bathroom, and at about 1pm, I headed downstairs to wash my bathroom painting stuff. Then I painted the ceiling and cornice in the downstairs hall. That was even more exhausting.

I washed up the painting stuff again. Then I headed to Tesco.

By this stage I felt like a limp rag. I was hot, thirsty, out of energy and felt unable even to drive. At Tesco, I bought a late lunch, plenty to drink (non-alcoholic), cold remedy medicine (mixture of paracetamol and caffeine) and some lockets. I sat in the car, listening to the radio and consuming a lot of what I'd just bought. As expected, it perked me up and I was then able to drive 50 or so miles to my sister's house in London.

I sat around at my sister's playing with my niece a little, talking with my family, and chilling out. Later, I made a fix to the broken bathroom door lock - it was more of a bodge. Then I went home.

More Look Around You. More giggling. Setting the clocks forward. Then sleep.

Sunday
I awoke even earlier - in every sense. The absolute time was an hour earlier then the clock time. The clock time was earlier than I prefer. It was early.

I went to pick up a friend from town. He would otherwise be killing time in the outside world, rather than spending it in a house with internet access and, albeit distracted with DIY jobs, company. I brought him back to mine, he played some music while I did some tidying up. Then I put a new string on my guitar to replace the one which snapped at my gig on Tuesday. We played some guitar together and then went for breakfast.

Subway.

Again.

I'd only had my first Subway breakfast on Saturday and my second was the following day. Weird.

Then back to the house. My friend kept playing YouTube comedy clips while I painted the third coat in my bathroom. I was getting tired again, so once it was complete, I decided not to do any more. I washed up, got dressed back in real clothes (not painting clothes) and we went out to B&Q together. I know how to show someone a good time.

Though we went to KFC first. Naughty. Chickeny. Unhealthy. Quite pleasant.

I dropped my friend off at his bus, got a shower (not at home, sadly) and then went off to my gig.

The gig was a charity night in Leamington Spa. I'd be lying if I said I rocked. I did, however, try some new material - written this weekend - and some of it has potential. I also did some of my lower-key stuff, in an attempt to save my voice. It was fun and I'm glad they didn't let me chicken out of it with my man-flu.

Arriving back home late at night I had to make some revisions to the sound-effects CD I will be using tonight. Some of these revisions involved me making the sound effects myself by combining freely-downloaded FX from the internet.

I wish I'd been able to watch the last two Look Around Yous, but they'll have to wait until I have more time.

In Summary
All in all it was a damned taxing weekend and I don't think it cured my cold.

I'm Weak

I could so easily have stayed in bed this morning, rather than come into work. I feel really flimsy and yuck. I'm prone to fits of the sweats and my head is both light and heavy at the same time.

However, I have a technical supporting job to do tonight and the show must go on. Though I could have sacked off work and just gone straight to the theatre, I have a rule that you don't party on a schoolnight if you've taken the day off sick. It's a good rule. It's the moral high-ground and also the one where you don't get sacked. I genuinely believe that it's the first reason that motivates me.

Anyway, the point is that my general sense of malaise, coupled with my general sense of perspective about people working in call centres somewhat tempered my enthusiasm for a good shout when I rang npower earlier to ask them what the hell was going on.

First I rang their debt-collection line and was told that the letter was issued automatically. I was about to explain how outraged I was at the heavy handedness of this when I was cut off. Fair enough. I then re-read my letter of apology and decided to ring the number on that one to see if I could at least make someone else apologise to me. The woman on the end of the debt-collection line had been a bit defensive, which would have been something to get my teeth into from a debating point of view... but... well... the long wait for customer service and then the nice geordie on the other end, coupled with my feeling of tiredness and weakness... I couldn't be bothered.

I made my point that, within 6 weeks of issuing a bill, I'm receiving letters the likes of which should be reserved for bad debtors who have ignored things for months, and that this is deeply offensive. I made the point, but I didn't raise my voice, or particularly try to annoy the person at the other end. He was quite clear that it was just a system, and one which had failed. I was clear on that too. In fact, I just asked him to pass the matter up. He'll probably pass it over.

For the 5 people that read this blog, I'll say this. I am deeply disappointed with npower. I have found their service to be lacking and I don't believe that their prices are good enough to warrant staying with them. Go to an energy switching website and switch away from them if you use them. I don't believe that a company which treats its customers (or even ex-customers) in this way deserves to be validated by receiving continued business.

I was fairly flimsy on the phone, though. I'm weak.

What The N-Powering Fu**

Following my complaint on 12th March that I don't appreciate a 4 week old bill being followed up by a final demand, I found two letters waiting for me at my Newcastle house:

My comments in italics

Date: 12th March

Dear MR A FRIEZE Ah, the personal touch

Your recent contact with us not in the least generic

Thank you for calling us earlier today about the problems you have recently experienced with your npower account.

We are very sorry for the inconvenience that you have been caused. by you - twats

We welcome feedback from our customers as it enables us to constantly review and improve out systems and procedures. We would like to assure you that we aim to provide the highest level of customer service. Aim, but miss, quite remarkably.

We hope that the explanations and actions discussed earlier are to your satisfaction and will help restore your confidence in us. Another generic statement

If we can help with any questions about your account in the future, please call us on 0845 602 6363 (w're open 8am to 8pm Monday to Friday and 8am to 6pm Saturday).

Yours sincerely


Julie Jaglowski
Head of Customer Service


A pleasant letter. 12th March. The day I sorted out my bill and complained that they had been heavy handed.

Then. The following day:

Date: 13th March

IMMEDIATE ACTION REQUIRED

As a matter of urgency please call local rate 0845 672 2742 as account 2133094 remains unpaid.

Failure to contact will result in your account being passed to a Debt Collection Agencey and/or Count Court for summons.


What!? Seriously?

We're sorry, but here's a dagger to the face!

Friday, March 23

Radiator Woes

Radiator is fitted Tuesday. No tiling this weekend for me.

I'll still buy them.

Foggy Head

This cold has really gotten to my head. My words aren't coming out right - either from my mouth, which sounds a bit raspy, or through my fingers to the screen. I even made a punctuation error in a previous post, the likes of which I'd normally call the police in over.

I feel like my head is stuffed full of cotton wool, both physically and psychologically. I think that this cold has made it more possible for me to feel stress. I couldn't sleep for a couple of hours last night, just running through the tasks I need to achieve in the next few weeks (not employment related) to keep projects in two houses on the boil. I know I have an over-ambitious plan for Newcastle, but the plans for Reading are also in an awkward state of flux.

I don't like things getting in the way of the critical path. I'm facing some conflicting dependencies at the moment and I'm not sure how they're going to resolve. I think I probably won't end up tiling my bathroom floor this weekend, unless there's a last-minute call from the radiator-fitting cavalry. I will probably buy the tiling stuff on my way home from work, though. I can then start tiling on Tuesday. I'd do it Monday, but I'm techying a sketch show. This all poses problems. Many problems. I'm away next weekend from Friday lunchtime.

Still, while away, it won't matter whether my shower works or not.

Too Weird

I nearly tried to put the last straw on the camel's back. I stopped myself just in time. Here's the situation, as an illustration of how my mind works. On Monday I'm doing technical things for a sketch show. One of the sound cues is currently on a CD in someone's hand and I need a copy of it before Monday. The person whose hands it's in, will post it to me, her hands, though, are healing hands. She's a very nice young lady and a massage therapist, who has offered free massages to people she knows in order to get some practice in. She lives in North East London. This weekend, I'm due to visit my sister in North London. I'm also due to do a shed load of painting in the next 20 hours. My back is already a bit achey. Time is very tight.

I nearly got as far as suggesting to the massage person that I somehow squeezed in a trip to her place in order for her to apply therapy to my aching back in between my painting and sister visit during which time I could also pick up the CD.

It sort of makes sense.

But being massaged by someone I know is a bit weird... as is running round even more like a bluearsed fly in the name of placebo convenience. She can post the disc and I can do without the manipulation.

Though I think I need a massage.

A long sleep would help.

Three Little Buffalo

I was in a really dark mood today and wanted to write something depressing or dark. Maybe a piece on pedophiles or full of death and destruction.

I forced myself to write a pointless children's tale.

Please ignore it.

Once upon a time there were three little buffalo. They lived on a ranch with the farmer, his wife, and their two children. The buffalo were smaller than normal buffalo and were kept in the barn by the children, as pets. Most buffalo spend their day either eating grass, or charging around the vast open spaces. These buffalo were too small for charging, and didn’t like to eat the grass with the other buffalo because they were shy about their size.

The farmers children loved their friendly buffalo pets and used to spend hours and hours in the barn, playing with them. Sometimes they would stroke and feed them. Sometimes they would try to ride them, though they usually fell off. Where most buffalo would find the company of humans to be awkward, the three little buffalo soon began to love their owners and would have done anything to look after them.

As the children grew up, so the little buffalo came to recognise that not everything in life stays the same. The time spent frolicking in the barn dwindled, and the human-buffalo relationship became more and more distant.

But sometimes they would remember the happy times.

Labels:


Something Told Me It Would Be Shit

Last night we went out for food and then to the movies. I was feeling under the weather and needed to relax. The food was good, as was the pre-movie playing of the quiz machine and eating of too much ice cream. However, the movie... Jebus H Wannamaker Christ. What the fahey!?

We went to see Premonition, which, out of ten, scores PI - that's about 3.14159. The reason it doesn't even score an integer is because I want the people who made and marketed the film to have something better to do with their time than write another thing similar. They can, instead, spend their time writing out PI - my review score for their film. Given that PI has an infinite number of decimal places, this will keep them busy and out of harm's way.

This isn't the first time I've watched Sandra Bullock in a time-traveling film with deep inconsistencies in its plot. Previously it was a bit of a girly movie and was cute enough not to matter that much - it even introduced me to a Paul McCartney track which I still listen to now. However, this movie was meant to be more of a chiller, and had, on the plus side, some interesting use of photography and music to create mood.

The plot, on the other hand, was flimsy and full of cliches. To make matters worse, the film made extensive use of flashbacks at the end to bring itself to a conclusion. I'd say climax, but it wasn't a climax. It was an infuriating wrap up of the "evidence" which left me wanting to wring someone's neck. It was like there was no ending, so they just thought they'd stop. I think they probably had the idea for the film and started making it before they knew where it was going. So, they borrowed the usual trick of having "someone who knows everything about this sort of thing", in this case, a priest in a church who mysteriously had a pre-prepared book of post-it-note-marked premonition cases (oooh, X-filesy), and who explained that it was probably an absence of something in Sandra Bullock's life (a good agent!?) that meant she was encountering a weird week (where she seemed to flit between days out of order). This man's advice, apparently, meant that everything could be solved if she did nothing and let nature take its course... or maybe she had control over her destiny, though that didn't seem to make sense either. So maybe the whole thing was pointless.

No reference was made to the fact that she was put in a mental home briefly in the film, but ended up not being there by the end. I suspect that the writers are now in that very mental home, hopefully tied to a chair.

With a twat whispering a commentary to his tart of a girlfriend behind me, unaware of either my stares, or the meaning of the sounds "Ssh" and "Will you stop talking?", and an ending which made me want to scream, I'd have to say that my expectations that Premonition would be a great heap of steaming turd came true. Spooky. Why did I pay good money to see it?

Fate.

Thursday, March 22

They're In The Money

This lunchtime I just agreed to spend several thousand pounds on a flat for the duration of the Fringe in Edinburgh. I still don't quite know how long I plan to be up there. Probably two weeks, which somewhat scuppers my plan to go to America and Canada at the tail end of the year. It "somewhat" scuppers it. It may not actually scupper it. We'll see. I do now have an extra day's annual leave in my contract, thanks to a unification of contracts as the company I work for manages to merge all its consituent parts into a giant jam.

I hope my own house is complete by August. Maybe while I'm in Edinburgh I can buy another! It would probably be cheaper to buy a house in Edinburgh in July, live it in for August, and then sell it in September. With property prices rising, it would probably work out cheaper!

For probably read, "not at all".

I Might Have Called In Sick

If it had not been for the fact that I had a builder due to come to the house to start work, and the fact that my mobile phone's battery was dead, thus preventing the calling, I would love to have called in sick today and just spent the day in bed.

I've definitely caught some sort of lurghi - probably a case of being near cold and other germs in my weakened state. I'm weakened from a year or so's living down south. 8 hours in Newcastle was enough to introduce enough into my immune system to keep it very busy.

So far, symptoms are: feeling a bit bunged up, having a rather sore throat and speaking like an ill person.

I'll struggle on a bit more, shall I?

Morning - Evening

I hoped to wake up around 10.45 Wednesday morning. Given that it was 5am when I finally got back to bed. It was no surprise to discover myself dozing until lunchtime. After a chat with my builder, I got myself motivated and went for petrol (driving 600 or so miles really drinks the fuel) and to put oil into my car (it burns that too, apparently).

Then work. A half day.

Returning to Reading, I decided to eat first, DIY later. I ate Subway, put my car through a car-wash, drove home, put lots and lots of windscreen wash in my car, and then considered the DIY. I did some. Yay. Less than 2 hours, but as much as my body could withstand. I was in Newcastle for less than 8 hours on Tuesday and I got a bloody cold. Geordie land managed to rain, wind, hail and snow on me, and I got a disease. Result!

As a consequence, my DIY was shortlived, but useful nonetheless. I decided to further a bodge job on a bit of skirting board I'd done badly. I don't mind the board not being straight, either to the eye or spirit level. I don't mind there being a 13mm increase in its height over the length of 435mm. I do mind the gap that leaves under one side of it. The carpet I put down won't be 30mm high. That's far too much. So, I cut a wedge-shaped piece of wood that would fit the gap. I sanded it, glued it into place, primed it with paint and I'll paint it at some point in gloss. This will then make the skirting board better.

It was a silly process to glue this to the underside of the existing skirting board. I used the handles of some teaspoons to locate the wedge correctly and pressure it into the glue. If you're going to bodge, bodge in extreme.

Less bodgey was the painting of the newly plastered downstairs hall ceiling. Using a watered down paint, I rollered myself a nice finish. I'm pleased with it.

That was that. A shower and then home to play with the piano for a few minutes before blogging for 2 hours.

Time for sleep now.

Old Friends at a Gig

It's worth saying, in a post all its own, that I was chuffed by the number of people who came to the gig I did on Tuesday night. I was slightly concerned that they'd not enjoy the rest of the night, or that things might go a bit odd-shaped, like they did at the "farewell gig" I did before leaving the city, but my fears were unjustified. People came, drank, laughed and were merry. It was a pleasure to look around the group and marvel at the good people who will turn out when I'm parading my ego about the place.

I am forging a life for myself down here in soft-southerners-land, but I do miss the people back up North.

Old Haunts in Newcastle

I had a day and I half's worth of holiday to kill, rather than lose. So I decided to drive up north to do a gig I live too far away from. I got up at 9am and spent the day driving. At three, having listening to Bill Bailey's Cosmic Shindig (nice) and lots of Radio 2, I parked on the roof of the car park I used to use in Newcastle when I worked nearby.

I walked into the city and went looking for socks. I had no agenda. I'm dangerous when I have no specific agenda. I was glad to be able to go looking for socks, I've not found people selling pure cotton socks outside of Newcastle's Greenmarket. I've not looked that hard, but I was glad to get the chance to go back and seek out the stall where I knew they would sell me my socks.

The stall wasn't there. The market was closed totally.

Thrown, I went on a wander looking for an audio lead for my mp3-player/car-radio interfacing. This is a problem I've been meaning to solve, the lead I have being weathered with an intermitted connection in it. I went into Richer sounds. I explained the sort of lead I wanted. The guy tried to sell me a £10 lead and I didn't think the headphone-plug end of the lead would fit. He then tried to upsell me to a £30 lead. I said that was a silly price. He then turned on the "but surely you're serious about music angle". Given that I'd been gigging for 6 days straight, I wasn't in a mood to filter my mouth. What happened was something like this:

Ash: Oh come on. You can't sell me any of the gold-plated plug bollocks. This is a simple lead to connect an mp3 player to a shitty car stereo. Don't give me any bullshit about audio quality. The lead is a bog-standard thing - should cost about £3.
Shop man: (looks round to check nobody is looking) What about this? (pulls a lead from under the counter).
Ash: Yes. That's the one. How much?
Shop man: £4
Ash: I knew it. You were trying to upsell me. You're the sort of person who sold my mum a £30 gold-plated scart lead because "if you don't get one like that, it might suffer from erosion". Erosion!? The action of the sea against rocks!? In a scart lead!?

It must be said that this was all done in a jovial way and the guy was smiling along - slightly overfaced by the power of my delivery, but not offended. We had a laugh about the erosion. True story.

The guy in the music shop, where I went for a look around, was less impressed with my ballsy motormouthiness. However, I was on my holiday and having a good time. If I want to rabbit on about stuff and be very jovial and hearty, then I will. I bought a practice amplifier from the shop, which I used to frequent a lot when I worked near it. It's a nice bit of kit. I haven't used it yet.

Then I went to the office I used to work in. I pretty much told everyone how impressed I was at how much it appears to have improved since I left. The company has gone through a lot, but they have regrouped and should be proud of themselves for the atmosphere in there. Of course, 16 months of not working there has given me a great deal of distance and the ability to be dispassionate about it all. It was good to see people again.

I returned to the streets of Newcastle for more wandering. Trying to buy arbitrary items from shops proved a good distraction. I failed to find a box set of TV themes. Shame. I could really have used that for the journey home.

I stopped to buy the big issue from the big issue seller who had noticed my absence, and whose name I remembered. We had a chat. She's looking reasonably well, considering the fact that she works most hours of the daytime out in the cold of Newcastle. I'll probably not read the magazine.

I did a bit of director's commentary as I wandered round:

Ooh, there's that hairdresser's I couldn't afford to go in. Ah, that's the "shop that never used to be there". This used to be a fountain. That Starbucks is missing. That Starbucks is new. This piggy went to market (probably the Bigg one). Where's the pub I'm supposed to be meeting people at again!?

It was fun. I have missed Newcastle and I should return there again. How about a week on Friday for an hour? And again a week on Sunday?

Dangerous Ashley

When I was just starting out doing comedy, I used to dispair of the sort of act who made it their mission to be offensive or provocative to the audience for its own sake. These were people who felt that their views were more important than their audience's sensibilities and, more importantly, the jokes. I'd hear words like "I'm going to ruffle some feathers tonight" before they went on, and then, when they got there, they'd make some wan references to marijuana and porn to a stony-faced crowd and then they'd feel like they'd said something important.

I don't want to be that sort of act. I don't want to offend for its own sake. There must be a laugh. An audience's sensibilities are important.

However, the jokes must be told.

Over the last week, where I've gigged every night, there have been incidents where I've caused offense to an audience. Sometimes it's been funny and I stand by what I've said. Sometimes I've felt perhaps a little embarrassed/cringey/unimpressed by my own behaviour. Here's a quick run down of the week in being offended.

Thursday - sang a deeply un-PC song at a charity gig for Comic Relief. A punter complained that I was gleefully mocking the very people the charity was there to help. I started to try to point out that it was so ridiculously un-PC that it couldn't be real, let alone meant, but ended up just apologising unreservedly for his offence. Looking back, it hadn't been so funny at the time that it was causing someone offence... though it can be funny if the room "needs" it.

Friday - I was offended to be playing in a room full of drunken twats. As a result, I invented some insults which I threw at various members of the audience. Some were deserved and may stay in my mind as useful ambush jokes (in fact, one got re-used on Tuesday and got a round of applause). The audience weren't offended by my material. If only they'd understood how much I looked down on some of them... they would have been offended enough to maim.

Saturday - No offence caused. Lovely gig. Lovely crowd. Lovely promoter. Shame I only came second in the competitive aspects. Great conversation on the way home on the subject of racism and I really learned something.

Sunday - Another tough gig. For the first time ever I bottled out of a song because it only works if a crowd is ready to take hedonistic pleasure in its slightly dark offensiveness. My mind was so convinced that it wasn't going to work that it purposely deleted the lyrics from the screen behind my eyes where I read my words from when I'm performing.

Monday - The Catface Cabaret. I used a joke I've been doing now for a year. It's at the end of a routine where I've become ridiculously intimidating in song form, and comment that the person on the receiving end looks scared. The line I use is "Sorry about that. You're scared, I'm out of breath. This isn't a gig. It's a rape!". The point is to ridicule the moment. For the first time ever, and the small crowd and theatre setting were partly, if not entirely, to blame for this, this didn't get the usual laugh. It got an "ooh" from the girl in question and a tension. I then pointed out that it clearly wasn't one and that "it's all just a bit make-believe" (a Gavin Webster phrase that popped out of my mouth in a slightly desperate attempt to defuse the situation). It didn't kill the room, but mirth had stopped. I pondered in a split second whether the girl in question might have been the victim of a sexual assault and decided she probably hadn't. I finished the gig fine and it was fine. Another girl came up to me, though, and said I shouldn't joke about rape. She also said I could maybe use another phrase like "sexual assault". She said there's nothing funny about rape. What I wanted to say was that "rape" is a powerful word and that's why it's funny in that context, especially with the way it sounds - the rhythm, the sharp stab in the air of the word. However, I told her I agreed that there's nothing funny about rape. I guess she couldn't see the joke. Describing it now, it doesn't seem that funny. Maybe it's only funny when I've created a slightly cartoonish rapey mood and then debunk it by pointing out that it's supposed to be a gig, not a rape... Anyway. Rape is a funny word, but rape is not funny.

Tuesday - the rape joke brought the house down. The "racist material" didn't.

I'll describe my behaviour on Tuesday in a bit more detail than the other days. It's my decision-making process from Tuesday which I sort of regret, and I'm sort of glad about. I was at a try-out gig, with a bunch of people I knew in the room. I felt fairly safe to do whatever I thought was, or might be, funny. I was also going to do a bunch of stuff which previous experience told me was funny. I was also closing the show. I had a lot of rope and I planned not so much to hang myself with it, as twirl it around my head and lassoo the crowd in. Don't you love it when a metaphor gets out of control?

Anyway, I decided to play with fire. Fire's fun. Fire can be funny. I did it in a controlled fashion - like putting a sparkler into a metal bin full of sand (oh dear - a metaphor AND a simile). I decided that I was going to do the Cheryl Tweedy material which had worked really well first time out and then died sorry horribly, causing me to be considered racist, on its second time out. I decided also, if the Cheryl stuff worked, to do the material I blogged the other day (here).

I didn't really offend anyone - except perhaps the comedian who missed the sarcasm in my post-gig comment. I said something like "I was being a bit edgy there" and he said something like "no you weren't, you should have just been racist". I replied that I thought I'd probably stick to mildly amusing slightly rude comic songs as normal. The thing is, I didn't so much break boundaries as stop being funny and start a pointless and facile lecture on the power of words to offend. This helped me exorcise a demon, but was more about words than it was using them. Going into the 3rd person in a comedy set - i.e. talking about the material you're doing - isn't an aid to comedy. It's a turn off. I won't do that again. It wasn't edgy.

However, the Cheryl Tweedy material worked and, with my central aim of tweaking taboos if necessary, but not actually hurting anyone, I reckon I know how to do it again to more sensitive audiences without offending them. The problem with this material is that I have to use an acronym. The gag is that I don't like the lazy journalistic use of the word "WAG" to describe an individual person. It's a crap word and it's inaccurate, since it stands for Wives And Girlfriends. The correct term should be the acronym for "Wife Or Girlfriend". The problem is that that's a term of racial abuse. Saying the word "wog" on stage, even when you're referring to a white geordie girl, and even when you've already set it up as an acronym, is, to some fucking imbeciles, an act of racial abuse. Twats. They probably wouldn't enjoy this paragraph either. However, the problem with the word, even when qualified with the context I've described, is that an audience that's only partially listening, might not realise what's been said, just hear the word and then be offended out of context. I've been here before.

At the very least, Tuesday night's version, put the point of the joke right up front and then backed it up with the racism skeleton from Cheryl Tweedy's past, so that I could point the finger of racism at someone other than the messenger (i.e. me). It worked pretty well... though I forgot a bit of it.

The material about the power of the word "Paki". Well, it wasn't that funny. It was quite funny in discussion with other comedians backstage somewhere... but I think comedians can find the saying of any taboo word funny. That's what comedians like to do. It's not edgy and it's not clever, it's just getting drunk with the power of the microphone... which is what I used to hate in those open spots at the start of my comedic career.

Jim Jeffries and Brendon Burns have both dealt with these taboo subjects in a way that I can't. I'll leave my need to push those buttons unsatisfied and I'll just do it vicariously through listening to their CDs. It's not edgy, but it's more me.

Cat-astrophic?

Monday night's gig was fair of face. Or is that Monday's child? Well, anyway. I left work early so I could get to Camden in time for a 5pm meeting at the venue where the Catface Cabaret is held. I didn't know a great deal about this show except that I was required to do a full cast dance routine in the show (I've done them before) and that it was usually a sell out, mixing a whole bunch of silliness with the spirit of variety.

I was pleased to be doing something different, which is why I asked to be allowed to leave work earlier than I would normally be able to.

When I got to the venue I did my usual soundcheck. Knowing the venue as well as I now do, it was fairly straightforward to get things working - in fact, I'd brought the special bits I needed with me. The Etcetera Theatre is rapidly becoming one of my most regular haunts and I like it there. It's always nice to plug a guitar into your favourite venue's PA system.

Once guitar checked, I sang a straight song I rarely sing. Purely in the name of warming up. Then, my embarrassment at my poorly written lyrics subsiding (the song was written in 2003 and I'm not incredibly proud of all of the lines - though I like some) it was time to learn the dance. When I first saw the routine I laughed at how complicated it looked. However, after a slow tuition, I think I picked it up reasonably well. By the time we did it on stage, I pretty much knew what I was meant to be doing. Some of it I even did.

There were problems however. One was sweat after going through the routine so many times. However, the other problem was that an act dropped out. This act was meant to be the magician of the night. It turned out that he was neither coming, nor was he ever a magician in the first place. Oh dear. Then, as the show was due to start, it turned out that audience numbers were the lowest they had ever been for the show. About a dozen. In a theatre that seats 42, a dozen is still over 25% capacity, but it still put a damper on proceedings a bit. The problem with 12 people in a room like that is that they can't actually laugh that hard all the time and so a performer feels like his/her act isn't working. Then, if they show doubt, the audience can stop finding them funny, even if they did.

I was closing the first half of the show. The acts before me had varying degrees of success, so I steeled myself for a tricky time on stage. I actually enjoyed myself greatly and did some material I rarely ever do (either because I've retired it, or it's rarely appropriate to do it). It was fun.

The show went well once it got going, and I truly enjoyed the second section, during which I was in the theatre, rather than waiting outside, where I got to see three splendid acts - two stand-up and one sketch. I laughed like a drain. I often do.

Hopefully the next shows will go back to sell-out-crowds and I'll be allowed to come back. I think I know the dance now.

Long Live Comedy

One of the organisers of Tuesday night's gig is very disappointed that I haven't yet blogged about it. I'd accuse him of being narcissistic, but, to be honest, one of the reasons I hadn't yet written anything is that I got distracted looking at a whole bunch of photos of myself, which were sent to me from last Thursday night's gig. I look fat and sweaty in those.

I'll get on with the description of the gig last night, as far as I remember it.

Long Live Comedy is a gig I wish had started about 3 years ago. In some ways it's the same sort of gig that I have such fond memories (and a few recordings) of, which ran for about a year at the Chillingham Arms pub in Heaton/Byker. The formula is simple. You take a bunch of newer/newish acts, occasionally add in a passing very experienced comedian (not Tuesday - that would be claimng that it was me, and I'm not in the league I'm describing), you cultivate an audience and a "scene" and then you just have fun. What unfolds should be eclectic, should have some really dead responses to bad jokes and some really enthuastic responses to cracking lines. That's how comedy should be. It should be a safe environment to have a laugh in.

Now, I'm not going to drop my memories of the Chillingham Arms, just because I had a great night last night. The amazing Gavin Webster, MCing a full and excited room, with the one-off appearance of Ross Noble, for instance, would be almost impossible to top. However, the past is gone and what's important is what you make of the present. From what I've read of this gig, which recently got voted best comedy club on Chortle (which means comedians like it), it's a cracker. I had high hopes for this, and wish I'd been living in Newcastle to support it all the way along its progression.

The guys who run it are three. Two of these folks are people I knew from the Chillingham days. One is someone whom I only know through his blog and podcasts. How geeky is that!? I really felt like I knew him from the off, which is nice. I knew his style and found no surprises in the in-the-flesh meeting. That's the beauty of the net, I suppose.

Anyway, I'll do my quick run-down of what I remember happening.

James Christopher, who spoke very loudly to me when he said hello, as though he was MCing his meeting me again, was a nice MC. He had some material which worked nicely, and some which fell flat. That was okay, though. The room could take it because they liked him.

Tom Mitchell was first on. His well-written material and delivery went down well after a slowish start. The initial MCing had been so easy going that I'd forgotten that the room would still need an opening act that could wear the process of warming up an audience at the start of the night. Tom did it with aplomb.

Then Don Moses came out with a bizarre football oriented and slightly surrealist set. He ran out of steam, missed a bit of his set out and got off the stage promptly. People seemed to enjoy his bumbling presence, though, and he's forging a style for himself.

A break followed, and then Pete Thompson proved that his MCing skills and improvisation outweighs his rapid-generation-of-new-thematic-material. The audience really liked him and he had a knack for phrasing things in an off-beat way which made the most of his naturally funny speech patterns. He introduced Ed Gamble, who came and stole the show. Act of the night. A work of high-writing-craftsmanship full of linguistic tricks and plain silliness, I wanted to hear more of Ed's stuff. Brilliant.

Lee Chamberlain had a more hit and miss set, his geekiness and dyslexia causing the audience to, perhaps, show more pity sometimes than his jokes required. However, there were some excellent jokes in his set and it's all grist to the mill.

After the second break, the gag competition yielded some beautiful entries and then some fat man came on with a guitar.

The audience was made of a good combination of acts, regulars and random people (admittedly, I'd brought some fo the random people).

I had a great time and my throat is sore from some of the bellowing I did in the name of laughter. (Bellowing laughs out, mainly.)

So. Long Live Comedy!

Wednesday, March 21


Monday, March 19

Oh Blog!

It seems you're never safe from the scam-spammers. I am a member of a site called MyBlogLog, which allows me to keep tabs on how my blog is being used. It is an online community of bloggers and blog readers and, as such, has private email within its system. Here's the message I just received. My comments are in bold:

From Samuel Komo,

After going through your profile , I decided to contact you for the relationship and bussines assistance .
You decided to contact me for the relationship? What relationship? My profile doesn't say I'm after random strangers does it? What the hell is bussines? Is it like cosines? Is it the product of a mathematical function that produces a graph that's curved, but like a bus? "Well, we have sines, cosines, and then bussines." What's your point Komo!?

Well, to introducing myeslf, I am Samuel Komo , TWENTY ONE years, I am a citizen of Cote D'ivoire former Ivory Coast in West Africa.
Please. Do introducing your "eslf". TWENTY ONE eh? You must be proud. So proud that you put it in capitals. Well done you. I like that you're a citizen of the "Cote D'ivoire" and that it has changed its name from "The Ivory Coast" by simply translating that name directly into French. You seem like a good egg. An egg that can't spell and is overly proud of its age, but a good egg nonetheless. Are you getting in touch for some good reason? I hope so. I'd hate it to be a scam or other rip off scheme.

I am writing to solicit your noble assistance for the transfering and investment of Nine Million, United Stat Dollars US D. in your country under your guardianship.I am the only Son of late Chief Komo Agams,before the death of my late father, he was the Director of Cocoa & Gold Dealers in Abidjan capital of Cote D'Ivorie and Accra Ghana respectively.My late father father was poisoned by my uncle with ganged up of my father's bussiness associates in one of their dinner.
Oh my god. Your "father father" was poisoned in his dinner. That's terrible. And you want my help to invest Nine Million "United Stat Dollars US D". I've not heard of that currency. I can assume from the "stat" that it must be a more static currency than the current dollar, which is not so much standing as tumbling at the moment. You're the son of a Chief and you were involved in Cocoa & Gold (two industries which really go hand in hand, like sportwear and sporting items, foodstuffs and foodcontainers, and paperclips and condoms). Your late father father must have been a great man. Tell me more.

Before his death last year, he called me confidentially and informed me in confidence of this sum of Nine Million, United Stat Dollars US D. he deposited in a prime bank here in Abidjan. Pending the guarantee of your faithfulness and co-operation, he further advised me to search for a reliable partner overseas who will assist me transfer and invest the money in overseas in case he did not survive in the hospital .Unfortunately, he died. I am soliciting your kind assistance in the following ways :
So, while still poisoned, from his dinner, he rang you, in confidence, to tell you, in confidence (that's double confidence - very confidential) that he had put some money in a bank and you had to find a man overseas (that would be me, then) to take that money from you, provided this man was faithful, noble, co-operative, gullible (sorry, not gullible, credible) and investment worthy. It sounds brilliant. Tell me the ways.

To provide me good account were this money will be transfered.
I have a good account. Go on.

To help me seek for a good business to invest the money into.
I've no idea about business. What about the bussines? I think I can do them. Never mind. I've such a good account, I'm sure we can work out the business and bussines thing.

To help me search for a better school to continue my education over there.
Well, you're a bit old for school, being TWENTY ONE, and all. Maybe you could go to a university or college of further education. I'm sure that 9 million United Stat Dollars will be worth enough to go to uni for a bit.

To help me come over there to start a new life there.
Oooh. You want to come and be an immigrant. I warn you. This country is a bit racist about immigration. Sorry. Not my fault. If you want to do well here, you might have to marry someone and I'm not actually gay, so I can't give you a civil partnership with me... No. I won't do it. Well, maybe. How much is 9 million United Stat Dollars worth? If it's enough, I might even let you bum me. Just a bit. Just in the sense of being noble and taking one for the team. Of course, you might be able to wangle a visa yourself as the son of a chief, and it might just be that you need housing advice. Hey, maybe you could rent a room at my place. I'll only charge you a few thousand $Stat per year. It would be great!

I have the Offical Deposit Slip Document with me here in Abidjan. So, I look forward to hearing from you so that we will proceed and as soon as we retrieve the deposit, I will without wasting time come down to your country to witness the investing of the money, Meanwhile, you will be compensate with TWENTY% of the money for your noble assistance.More detail will be giving to you in your next mail.
It's ok. I have deposit slips here in the UK. You can just deposit the money. Or maybe a CHAPS transfer. Or BACS. Or direct debit. Or switch? No, you don't do switch? Ok. Well, if you're going to bring the money without wasting your time, just do it. I'll see you when you have the cash in your hands. You can just give me TWENTY% - I assume that's 20%, not some special other denomination of currency I don't know about. Maybe the $Stat is divided into %'s. Maybe TWENTY% is worth about £2.50 - in which case no.

As i am writing to you now, I am hiding myself in a local Guest House for the safety of my life due that my uncle and the enemies are wanted to kill me in order to claims this money deposited by my late father with my name as the next of kin.
Hang on. If they're after the money and you're hiding in a guest house for fear of your life, maybe I don't want you bringing a bunch of hitmen to my country and to meet me. Sure, they might not want to kill me, unless you give me 20% of the money and they decide to kill me to retrieve it, but maybe a stray bullet or knife might hit me. I reckon you should just turn yourself in, maybe ask for police protection. Maybe use the money to get a more secure room in the guest house.

Please help me to accord this transaction with the due confidentiality it demands. I appreciate it if you will respond to me as soon as possible.I will send you my Identification in my subsequent mail upon hearing from you. This transaction will bring us into an everlasting relationship rooted on truth and fear of God.
Sorry Sammy Komo. I can't do it. I don't want an everlasting relationship based on fear and truth and God. It sounds like the sort of relationship which ends with me dead in a hotel room somewhere having been stabbed, shot, and then poisoned in my dinner. No.

here is the hotel number +225-0914-9076 you can call me with please when you call ask for Samuel Komo room N°4. plesae reply me on my email private Box (samuel_komo04@yahoo.ca )
May God Bless You ,while expecting your immediate response.

Kind regards,

Samuel Komo ,
Nice final comma.

Silenced

The publishing of this blog is tricky at the moment and it's having a very discouraging effect on me. I want to blog stuff, but the thought of having to either struggle to get it online, or not get it online immediately, makes me question why bothering. I guess I like the immediacy of the push-button publishing I got accustomed to.

I can't quite see where the problem is. It's frustrating.

Also in the frustrating category is doing a gig to an apathetic room where they're talking over you. Such was Friday's gig and, sadly, such was tonight's. Although I purposely through some laughter-pauses at my audience this evening and heard them fill with the expected laugh (god, it sounds so predictable - like some sort of well-rehearsed ritual), I also came off stage feeling like it had been a tepid gig, compared both with last time I played there, and also the gargantuan effort I made on Friday to quell and raise laughs from the near-impossible audience.

The last act did a really good gig tonight and that's either because I managed to bring the room into a state that was ready for comedy, or because he was simply better at smoothing a room into a receptive state. Maybe both. Probably just the one which doesn't make me feel better about myself.

I didn't get the endorphine rush of a job well done. I didn't get the depressing loneliness of a job done badly. I just got a sense of ambivalence. I was also a little sad about the state of students today.

One of the organisers was very complimentary towards me, remembering the last performance I did. I hope that tonight's showing doesn't knock the shine off otherwise happy memories.

So, I played to rabble, silence and the occasional laughs. Big deal. Tomorrow I get to go and play in a little fringe theatre in London. And I get to do a dance. And I get to have a day off after. Yay.

Today I had a sleep in (I didn't get back until well late last night, so it's ok) and then went on the DIY buying rounds. Then, DIY stuff bought, I fitted some lights, a switch (though I regret the switches I've committed to) and then spent about 3 hours sanding all my primer and then painting gloss paint. I hate gloss paint. I hate dust getting into the paint. I had dusted before I started painting - vacuumed in fact. I hate dribbles too. I specifically hate cleaning gloss paint brushes. I made a reasonable fist of it, but I suspect the brush will start losing its hairs from now on, and there's no point in shaving it to grade 0.

Sunday, March 18

Potted Version of 2 Gigs and One Day In Between

Friday night's gig was predictable.

I had my hair cut on Friday lunchtime. I bet my hairdresser that the audience at the gig would be difficult. I said that if they were a dream, I would give my fee to Comic Relief. I couldn't lose. In the situation where I had to hand over the money, I'd have bought (from the comedy gods) a nice crowd. If they were a bunch of bastards, then I, at least, got to keep the money.

I kept the money.

The crowd didn't want comedy. They didn't want to listen. They wanted to be excited and shout abuse. They made me laugh. Hard. I laughed at the sheer ridiculous hopelessness of putting a comedy night on in that setting. Then I laughed with schadenfraude at the other comedians' deaths. Sorry, but it's often quite funny to watch this...

Then, after everyone had had a bad night, and I hadn't gone on, I was offered the chance to walk away. The landlady would pay everyone's fees and I didn't need to go on. I thought "Sod it. I'm here anyway." and offered to go on. I don't know why. I just did. I went on.

I reckoned I'd give it up after 5 minutes, or make it work somehow and last longer.

I was on for nearly 20 minutes.

It took a lot of energy that I didn't have, and I broke two guitar strings with the vigour I used to break through the wall of indifference and abuse. I even found a new punchline to throw at someone. It was bloody horrible... but my own death was, itself, funny to me. I left the stage and had a hysteria fit. I remember when such gigs used to depress me to misery. Now I think I know the value of comedy in a non-comedy situation and find it bloody hilarious to do something so ridiculous.

The combination of shouting my set to an audience and screaming with laughter on the way home - cathartic but vocally intensive - meant I had a very tight voice the following morning when I woke up.

And it was morning. Not early, but morning, nonetheless. I had to wait in for a guitar technician type of person to come and pick up my guitar, so I did some basic housework, which involved changing my bedclothes and tidying up a fair bit.

Then, after guitarage was sorted. I went out, got lunch, bought some DIY things and a printer (on a whim) and came back. The printer seemed to have an extra £5 deducted from the price, and I had a £5 off voucher for the shop. In the end, I think the assistant only applied one of these discounts, but given that I was unaware of the discount on the box when I picked it up, I can't say that I'm feeling particularly fussed.

The DIY things included light-fittings, one of which I managed to both install and break in the same go. It's just a bit of cracked plastic in a ceiling rose. I'll just have to buy a replacement. Not the end of life as we know it.

Then I was off to my gig in Devon. I'm sure I've been telling people that it was Dover, but it was Devon.

It was a competition, though I was there for the fun, not the competition. If there's such a thing as comedy karma, then I was there for that. The Comic Relief night had been tough on Thursday, but I'd made people laugh. I'd also upset some people, so perhaps Friday was my punishment. If both those gigs were tough, then surely a student gig, probably full of pretty late-teenage girls (i.e. 19, not 16!) was probably the remedy. I had a tough gig back at the end of last year at a particular club, and its promoter was one of the acts too, so perhaps I'd get a chance to be funny in her presence again (she was always supportive, but I wanted to feel like her last impression of me as an act was better than that night when it didn't really work well).

I didn't plan to win the competition. I was going to do some of the material I don't often do.

But it brought out the competitive spirit in me. So I did a set full of bankers.

I came second.

I drove the winner home. We talked. I talked a lot. He put up with it and also had stuff to say. We discussed racism and comedy - my two favourite discussion points.

Then I drove myself home.

The tinkling sound of girls' laughter is still in my ears. Bless the students. I have another student gig tomorrow night. Ahhhhhh.

Life as a comedian is fun.

Blog-Out-Age

There have been problems with my ISP. I've been blogging, but it's not been getting online.

Hopefully I just sorted it out.

If so, then there's a backlog to read.

Friday, March 16

Show Listening Blog

Hazel over at her blog has the habit of writing a blog while watching a TV programme - or at least about the sequence of events in a TV programme. I've decided to spend the next hour or so at my desk in the office recording a Bill Bailey concert that truly makes me happy to listen to. I'm tempted to try doing a real-time blog of what happens along the way.

It's possible that this blog will turn into a "isn't it weird sitting alone in an office chuckling away to yourself" session. It's also possible that this will turn into a really naff director's commentary - in that you don't get to read it alongside the material I'll be reacting to. There's only one way to find out.

18.56
At this moment the show hasn't started. I've shut a bunch of programs on my computer and tried to avoid anything which makes noise from being able to do so. The recording is going to be made by Audacity, which records everything the computer is putting into my headphones - it does it digitally, so I can make as much noise as I like, but the computer generation of any sounds will be picked up. As a result, I can have a streaming audio player, like the BBC Radio 3 player, running and anything which comes out of it can be recorded. That's the idea.

18.57
Is it normal to have butterflies in the stomach while listening to Radio 3? Why do I feel under performance pressure? I'm not about to perform. I guess I don't want to miss the start of the gig. I had to remember to press my red button. I've no idea whether this will even work. Theoretically there's enough recording space on the disc for about 30 hours of constant recording. I need 1hr 45 minutes.

18.59
Make that 1hr 47 minutes. I put the recording on earlier. They were playing some Flanders and Swan at the end of the last show and I thought it might be interesting.

I'm just a pirate.

Apparently it's a song about a "G-nu".

It's a funny song.

I could parody it relating it to "GNER" - I'm "G-ner"... except you don't parody a parody song and anyone who does is a numpty!

19.01
It turns out my clock is slow. The previous programme is still ending. I'm still excited.

19.02
The continuity announcer has made two crap jokes to link between programmes.

It doesn't matter. The introduction has started and I'm excited.

19.03
The sound quality isn't great and the orchestra aren't incredibly tight, but it's started well. The opening gag I remember as being so funny has not appeared yet.

19.05
There's a dutch hip-hop joke I don't remember. Must be new. I'm pleased. I should listen, rather than blog.

19.11
Ah, they're playing the Emmerdale theme. It's smooth and loving.

19.15
I'm laughing out loud at the Bassoon playing the Bee Gees.

19.19
The William Tell overture will be playing in a moment and this is a great thing. I sort of missed the opening gag when I saw it live. So I'm getting to hear it again. Beauty.

19.24
Playing the DVD opening credits live. It's ridiculous. I laughed out loud again. Still feels weird in the office.

19.36
The jazz Eastenders theme. Neat.

I've been listening and enjoying. This gig doesn't feel as tight as when I saw its warm up. The script is tighter, but Bill seems less relaxed and in tune. The orchestra aren't that tight too... But it's still mint!

Oh, and the audience aren't that responsive. The difference between a Saturday night and Monday night crowd.

19.41
Eastenders is being done as a melodrama with some amazing film music - it's so warm. Anne Dudley - if she were only younger.

19.44
The Leg Of Time - a full orchestral version of it. Sounding good. It was always a good piece of music. I can't see any punchlines or laughs in it... but Bill carries it off with aplomb. It's a lesson in commitment and joy in what you're doing.

19.46
The crowd are going mental. This is a great moment - captured in an echoey way by the 44kbps real-player. Shame about the sound quality. Still, this is the best way I can think of getting a copy of it. A USB DAB radio would have been better... if they exist.

19.50
The cop show music starts. This is a massive routine, enlivened by the whole orchestra.

19.54
The cop show parody music is still going and it's already feeling quite self-indulgent. Some gags aren't really working... but they're good.

19.55
The bass clarinet gag brings the audience back, and the orchestra is winding up to serious atmosphere. Who cares if it's indulgent. There are plenty of nice call backs to previous setups made in the last hour. This is a cracking bit of slow-burner writing. This is why we're on radio 3.

19.58
A Keyser Sozer gag. I get it now. Yay!

20.00
A ten minute cop show music routine. That's quite something. With a full orchestra, there's been a lot of effort put into that. Big respect.

20.03
Hats off to the Zebras. Sounding nice with the orchestra providing a warm string pad and french horn counter melody. The guide to the orchestra forming the start of this show has helped me identify this. Neat.

20.07
Carnival of the animals is about to be played. This impressed me when I first heard it. Bill plays well with the orchestra. Or at least did on the 24th Feb.

20.10
The fossils part of the carnival of the animals is playing. Bill plays piano provocatively... I am enjoying hearing this again, though my attention is waning a bit. Perhaps the edited out interval has hindered the enjoyment. I would still buy a legal copy of this, mind.

It will probably be followed by the carnival of the forgotten animals - the new composition that they made... which I didn't really see the point of.

20.12
It's called the Calvacade Of The Unloved. They're about to do the wasp.

20.13
It's done. It didn't do much for me. Sorry Anne. You are still lovely... but a bit old for me.

20.14
Now the chameleon - this is a more atmospheric piece, but I think it will probably lack a climax. The problem is we're not sure whether it's meant to be funny or, indeed, why it's really happening. It's still good to hear an orchestra playing about with something for the sake of entertainment/art/amusement.

20.16
No climax. The bemused audience applauds politely.

20.17
The red crab with a solid russian theme is a bit more rousing, I think. Though it does sound like it's mimicking Prokofiev quite strongly.

20.18
The jellyfish even gets its own theme. Saint-Saens might have covered that with the aquarium theme they played 11 minutes ago.

Having said that, I really like this theme. It's sumptuous with a horn and an aquatic wiggle of the strings. The theramin is also employed to delightful effect, though Bill has trouble with exact pitching of it. The bottom line, though, is that orchestras sound great and I regret not one second of listening to this.

20.21
They're about to do the orchestral version of "Insect Nation" - a rock opera. Cosmic Jam didn't do this well. 10 years later, with a bit more of a War Of The Worlds vibe, and a 50 piece orchestra, Bill finally gets to do it justice.

20.28
Insect Nation comes to a massive climax - it's been like 7 minutes and it was truly stunning. I am, of course, deeply awed.

20.29
The love ballad is being set up.

20.30
The orchestration hams this up so beautifully - there's more Scott Walker in the percussion than I remember.

20.33
The love ballad finishes. The audience go wild. I release a massive fart in appreciation - unaware of the exact volume of it and whether anyone left in the office heard it.

20.34
They saved the theme from Shaft for a finale. Interesting. I wonder why. I think Bill must just like playing that wacky wacky guitar.

20.38
The show comes to an end with Bill thanking everyone.

The End
It was more fun live and I think Bill enjoyed it more without anyone recording it.

My recording of the recording will take about 10 minutes to save to my disk. Wow!

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